Tanisha of Taiwan
February 7, 2023, 07:21:06
The other night I was rifling through my personal archives, hunting for one particular document that went back a long way and represented a lot of value to me.
I found it at last, tucked away in a 2002 diary.
And I also found another treasure—an unopened envelope from this lady in Taiwan, by the name of Tanisha.
She was a poetess of eminence and used to send me lovely, cheerful poems that dealt with the materialistic world we live in. I would thoroughly enjoy every single one of her poems, and would eagerly await her next one.
While I was delighted at finding an unopened envelope from her, I was also dismayed that I had not opened it when I first received it. I can only plead guilty to carelessness.
Even after that one unopened envelope, I continued to receive poems from her, which invariably reflected her cheerful soul and her disdain for the materialistic world.
I did notice that Tanisha seemed to be increasingly drawn to the world of spirituality, and she showed a distinct leaning towards Buddhism.
Tanisha was astronomically rich. In her own words, she would not be able to run through her wealth even if she was reborn to them for ten generations,
She had had a tragic life, She had lost her husband and two siblings.Though at her age then (she must have been 44 or 45 years of age) and her affluence she could have had her pick of highly eligible suitors for another marriage, she was not interested.
And sure enough, all that her early portents had signalled came to pass. She retired from active life and took refuge in a Buddhist monastery.
She was not just a lady of wealth. She was also a lady of learning. She was at home with the basic tenets of all of the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism. But she chose to retire to the religion that offered her the most solace for her heart and soul. She chose Buddhism.
She used to write to me about the essential elements of Buddhism in her rather inimitable style, and to be honest, I did not grasp everything she conveyed to me. I can’t even remember the number of messages she had for me on the Gita, the Koran, the Bible and other religious texts. And while she was extremely well-written and illustrative, I did not follow everything. I guess an ordinary human like me was not up to the philosophical and theosophical levels she had attained.
According to her, the Four Noble Truths preached in Buddhism comprise the essence of Lord Buddha and his teachings, though they still leave much unexplained. They deal with the truth about the sufferings in human life cycles, the truth about the causes of these sufferings and the truth about achieving an end to these sufferings. In simple terms, sufferings exist, and causes exist for that suffering. Suffering can also end, and causes need to be sought that will achieve this.
The notion of suffering is not intended to convey a negative worldview; it is, rather, a pragmatic perspective that deals with the world as it is and attempts to rectify it. Conversely, the notion of pleasure is not denied, but pleasure is stated to be a fleeting experience. The pursuit of pleasure can only feed what is ultimately an unquenchable thirst. The same logic belies an understanding of happiness. When life is distilled into its basic elements at the end, only ageing, sickness, and death are certain and inevitable.
The Four Noble Truths are a kind of contingency plan for dealing with the suffering humanity faces—whether it be suffering of a physical nature, a mental nature or even a spiritual nature.
The First Truth identifies and accepts the presence of suffering.
The Second Truth seeks to determine the causes of suffering. Buddha’s philosophy states that desire and ignorance lie at the root of all suffering. By desire, Buddha referred to the craving for endless pleasure, endless possessions and endless life, or immortality. These are all wants that can never be satisfied to the extent sought. As a result, the thoughtless desire for them actually results in suffering. In comparison, ignorance is not seeing the world as it actually is. Without the capacity for mental concentration and insight, Buddha explained, a person's mind is left undeveloped and unable to grasp the true nature of things. Vices such as greed, envy, hatred and anger all derive from this ignorance.
The Third Noble Truth, the truth about the end of suffering, has a dual significance: one suggests the end of suffering in this life, on earth, while the other suggests the end of suffering in the spiritual life, through attainment of Nirvana. When one has achieved Nirvana, which is a transcendent state free from suffering and from the worldly cycle of birth and rebirth, spiritual enlightenment has been reached.
The Fourth Noble truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, known to Buddhists as the Noble Eightfold Path. The components of the Noble Eightfold Path are Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Moreover, there are three themes into which the Path is divided: good moral conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech); meditation and mental development (Action, Livelihood, Effort), and wisdom or insight (Mindfulness and Concentration).
Karma plays a role in the Buddhist cycle of rebirth. There are six separate planes into which any living being can be reborn—three fortunate realms, and three unfortunate realms. Those with favourable, positive karma are reborn into one of the fortunate realms: the realm of demigods, the realm of gods, and the realm of men. While the demigods and gods enjoy gratification unknown to men, they also suffer unceasing jealousy and envy. The realm of man is considered the highest realm of rebirth. Humanity lacks some of the extravagances of the demigods and gods but is also free from their relentless conflict. Similarly, while inhabitants of the three unfortunate realms -- of animals, ghosts and hell -- suffer untold suffering, the suffering of the realm of man is far less.
The realm of man also offers one other aspect lacking in the other five planes, an opportunity to achieve enlightenment or Nirvana. Given the sheer number of living things, to be born human is to Buddhists a precious chance at eternal spiritual bliss, a rarity that one should not forsake.
The last letter that I read from Tanisha was probably in 2004. In those days, WhatsApp and other social media communication sites had yet to surface. All of her correspondences was handwritten and sent in envelopes.
Om Mani Padme Om.
Biddham Sharanam Gachhami,
Dharmang Sharanam Gacchhami,
Sangham Saranam Gachhami. (Tripurainfo)